A 1920's Oklahoma tale of mystery and betrayal--and a first novel by a Chickasaw poet and professor--tells of the murder of Native Americans for their off royalties. The murders begin in the summer of 1922, when Grace Blanket, whose agriculturally worthless land conceals one of the richest off fields in Oklahoma's Indian Territory, is shot by a mysterious man in a black Buick and left to die. Grace's death is witnessed by her young daughter, Nola, though the girl is unable to identify the murderer. Nola is taken in by her mother's adoptive parents, Belle and Moses Graycloud, and, as Grace's heir, she is watched over by tribal ""runners""--spiritual tribesman from the neighboring hills. Though the cattle ranchers, oil barons, and lawmen in the area initially blame the murder on a lovers' quarrel, the Indians never doubt that Grace was murdered by avaricious white folk; and as the seasons pass and more Indians are cold-bloodedly murdered, federal officials are at last forced to investigate. Justice prevails for the most part, though not all of it is brought about through the courts. Meanwhile, the Indians' efforts to influence events through the spirit world, their ever-tightening circle of defense, and their steady dread of the fate they fully expect to overtake them evoke a brutal time and place in American history, giving this tale an odd beauty. Despite its lack of real suspense, then, an unusual and intriguing debut.